The Evolution of Fundraising
Tim Torgerson | Jennifer RubelTim is a development professional with extensive knowledge of capital campaigns and leadership giving. He has 37 years of experience in fundraising. Prior to joining Hansen Henley Yoder Lamb (fundraising firm acquired by AMPERAGE in 2023), Tim served for 18 years with the American Cancer Society and successfully led campaigns totaling over $225 million. Tim’s responsibilities included acting as an internal campaign consultant to campaign projects across the country. He personally closed several large seven and eight-figure gifts including the largest gifts in the 105-year history of the American Cancer Society. Tim’s career also includes leadership positions with the YMCA, Salvation Army, Opportunity Partners, and St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church. Tim currently serves as board chair of the Greater White Bear Lake Community Foundation and as a member of the Foundation of St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church.
Intro: We know
what you want. You want to reach more customers and grow your business.
But the marketing and PR landscape is murky and confusing.
Now, you can gain clarity with straight talk on the latest
marketing and fundraising trends and technology from two agency pros.
Bryan Ernest and Rachael Holland from Amperage Marketing and
So, AMP UP your marketing with the AMP UP Podcast.
Bryan Earnest (Host 1): Welcome back to the AMP UP
Podcast. I'm Bryan Earnest.
Rachael Holland (Host 2): And I'm Rachael Holland.
Host 1: Well, today, Rachael, we're talking about modern
Host 2: Awesome. Well, I love challenges and I love the
modern times. So, let's take us back, Bryan. When you started the business 25
years ago, just a hot second, what would you say the biggest challenge was that
nonprofits were facing when it came to fundraising?
Host 1: Wow. That's a great question, Rachael. And yeah,
it has been a minute. You know, looking at the nonprofit space, I would say
there have been several key factors that have impacted nonprofits over the last
few decades. For the longest time, people looked at the nonprofit sector as having
a lack of business acumen. We've certainly seen that change over time. But
also, quite often, you saw nonprofits just being behind the times in many ways,
maybe that was in technology, their business practices, even talent that was
attracted to the nonprofit space was very different than it was for the
One other thing that has certainly impacted the nonprofits over
the last decade or so has been social media. It's had a huge impact on the
nonprofit world, and it's created a new level of connection to the community
and to its constituents.
Host 2: Yes. Behind the times, I think that's a great
point, and I think that probably even applies today, just with, like you said,
all of the different technology and social media. There's a new platform it
seems like coming up every other day. Different things for asking donors for
money, ways to track them, all of that stuff.
I would also say that just in the last decade or so, the need
for nonprofits to find that unicorn, right? The person who can raise the money,
make the big ask to get those big donations, but also update the website and be
a designer and be a social media guru, all of those things. Have you seen that
in the past or do you think that remains consistent and will continue to be a challenge?
Host 1: That's a great point, Rachael. And I think, you
know, it still continues to be a challenge today for many nonprofits,
especially at the community level to try to do so much with a small budget,
with small resources, trying to stretch every penny, every donor dollar as far
as they can. And so, yeah, it becomes a real challenge internally. Also, so
many roles that organizations could lean on from their volunteer base have
dried up in a lot of ways. The volunteer experience for many nonprofits is just
a very different one today. And many services, many areas of support that
nonprofits had from their volunteer base just aren't there today. Well,
Rachael, should we bring in our guests?
Host 2: Yes, let's do it.
Host 1: All right. Well, joining us today are
fundraising experts. Jennifer Rubel, Amperage's Director of Fundraising; and
Tim Torgerson, Senior Fundraising Advisor. Welcome, Jennifer and Tim.
Jennifer Rubel: Thanks for having us.
Tim Torgerson: Thank you very much.
Host 2: Yeah, Jennifer and Tim, we are so glad to have
you both. You both have deep experience in the fundraising world and have
helped countless organizations move the needle with their efforts. Bryan
touched on some of the challenges that he's seen over his time, but I'm curious
to hear your thoughts on the biggest fundraising challenges today. Jennifer,
let's start with you.
Jennifer Rubel: Yes. I think some of the biggest
challenges that nonprofits face today from the fundraising perspective is, one,
philanthropic analytics and how are they going to incorporate that into all of
their fundraising efforts and interactions with their donors and prospects.
Another thing is AI. A similar sort of sentiment there is how is all of that
going to work with their existing fundraising model?
And then, Bryan, you alluded to this earlier, was the decrease
in volunteerism and how challenging it is for organizations to have volunteers
on board to help them reach their fundraising goals. I think there are a
handful of reasons behind the decrease in volunteerism.
A US Census Bureau Survey recently reported that the level of
volunteerism dropped by seven percentage points between 2019 and 2021. Now, I
think part of that is a COVID carryover sort of situation. I think COVID and
some of those survival strategies that were put in place during that time made
it all easier for us to stay home. We can have our groceries delivered, we can
pay all of our bills from home, how many streaming services do we all have. All
of those things make it easy to stay inside and stay home. I think too that
people are more cautious about how they use their time now and who they choose
to share it with. And then lastly, I think there's a generational shift that's
happening and how volunteers need to be communicated with and utilized within
those organizations that they do choose to volunteer their time with.
Host 1: All great points, Jennifer. You and I have
talked quite often about volunteerism and the change of maybe transactional
volunteers now versus maybe those volunteers that are like either committed for
years or decades, or even a lifelong volunteer for an organization, more
transactional. But you and I have talked a lot more about even board makeup,
boards of directors for nonprofits maybe not having the same experience around
fundraising. What have you seen change over the last several years?
Jennifer Rubel: I think there's a larger gap between
volunteers who have been involved and passionate about an organization for a
very long time and that we don't have folks that are willing to come in or able
to come in and spend the amount of time and dedicate the amount of time to the
organization. So, what I have been encouraging my clients to do is bring some
of those folks on board and be willing to mentor them along, show them the
inner workings of the organization and get them involved in ways that they're
able to be. It does look different than it did 10 years ago, and actually even
five years ago.
Host 1: That's great advice, Jennifer. Tim, shifting
over to you. When an organization that's having challenges around volunteerism
and engaging the right people and they want to take on something big like a
capital campaign? I'm sure you have some thoughts on some common mistakes
organizations are making when it's time to launch a capital campaign.
Tim Torgerson: Bryan, thanks. I think a couple things
that come to mind is that there's a link between how much the community and the
volunteer that you're going to be asking to take on a role, especially in a
capital campaign, how much knowledge they have of your organization, what is
their relationship? Do they truly understand the passionate need for your
mission in the community? And how well have you been communicating with them?
A lot of times volunteers, and donors for that matter, are
committed to institutions that they know well, that they trust. And by them
having a well thought out stream of communication that over time continues to
tell the real story of the institution and the mission, and how you're making a
difference in the community makes a huge difference when you're talking to
donors and, certainly, recruiting volunteers.
And back a little bit on the volunteers and being available, I
think today's volunteers are more receptive of very specific asks that have a
start and a finish to it that meets their scheduling needs and possibly their
ability to be able to respond over time. And I think again, it circles back to
how much they know about you, what are you doing in the community and how do
they have an ability to be able to understand what you're doing.
Host 1: Jennifer, thoughts you have on capital campaigns
and how they're changing right now for nonprofit organizations.
Jennifer Rubel: Yes. You know, as one of the steps that
we recommend organizations do in preparation for a campaign and what we want to
ultimately be a successful campaign is that they have an ample pool of willing
and passionate volunteer leaders. Organizations can't run campaigns alone. They
need volunteer leaders and helpers to do soliciting, to do thank yous, to help
with planning and coordinating. Volunteers will help them spread the word about
the campaign, which will help them reach more people and prospects than they
have in the past, which almost every organization that we work with needs to do
to reach their campaign goals and fundraising goals.
Host 2: I love that. And I think that your points were
spot on to just talking about that communication piece, Tim, right? And telling
your brand story. People don't know what they don't know. So if you're not out
there championing your organization, your volunteers aren't doing that, it's
really hard to get buy-in from volunteers and donors, right? I'm sure we could
talk about this all day long. But I want to give each of you a chance to give
our listeners either one fundraising tip or one word of advice, what would that
be? Jennifer, you want to kick us off?
Jennifer Rubel: I think the main thing here is to look
at this downturn in volunteerism as an opportunity, an opportunity to do things
differently and ultimately be more successful in their volunteer efforts.
And if I could recommend one thing, would be to be more diverse
in their efforts in who they're bringing on board. And as they bring those new
folks on board, be sure to create the space for those folks to be authentically
themselves in their interactions with leadership and in the activities that
they do on behalf of the organization.
Host 2: I love that. Tim, what about you?
Tim Torgerson: You know, I spoke earlier about
communication and I think one of the things that I see that nonprofits, both
board members and lead staff, can do and should be doing all the time is really
meeting with community leaders on a regular basis and informing them of the
things that you're doing, keep them up to speed. So that when the time comes
for a capital campaign or for a major fundraising effort, that this isn't the
first time they've heard your story, marrying that with a overall
communications plan that the full community sees and hears and that constant
drumbeat of the organization telling its story, is really going to set the
stage for a really solid fundraising effort. If we were to do a feasibility
study and go in and do an interview with a leader in the community, and it's
the first time they've been spoken to in two or three or five years or longer,
isn't going to produce the same level of response as a person who's been kept
up to speed and they see themselves as a partner in your mission in the
community. So, it's just super important to be out and talking with these
people and creating that ground cover in the greater community about what
Host 1: Well, great advice from both of you. Thank you.
You know, I love the recommendations about outreach by leaders, both volunteer
and staff, to be in touch with the community, to be listening to the community,
to perhaps even be informing the community. I think we all find too often that
our own organizations as well as the nonprofit community assume that everyone
in their community knows who they are, what they do and why they do it. So,
being out there and being in touch is such great advice. No doubt the nonprofit
and fundraising world is evolving and changing.
Well, that's it for today's AMP UP podcast. If you like what
you've heard on our podcast, please share it. Go to amperagemarketing.com.
Also, if you get a chance, please rate and review us. We appreciate any
feedback. Thanks, Rachael. And on behalf of all of us at Amperage, thank you.
Check in on another podcast and we will help you move the needle.